A week after protesters put fake corpses at official’s home

Police break up University of Michigan encampment; New School to hold divestment vote

Camp was threat to safety with overloaded power sources, open flames, says school president; Drexel University campus on lockdown as officials threaten to clear encampment

Anti-Israel students protest at an encampment on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 28, 2024. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP)
Anti-Israel students protest at an encampment on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 28, 2024. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP)

US police broke up a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel encampment Tuesday at the University of Michigan, less than a week after demonstrators showed up at the home of a school official and placed fake body bags on her lawn.

Officers wearing helmets with face shields moved in before sunrise to clear the Diag, known for decades as a site for campus protests.

Video footage posted online showed police at times using what appeared to be an irritant to spray people, who were forced to retreat.

The encampment had been set up in late April near the end of the school year and as families arrived for spring commencement.

Posters taunting president Santa Ono and other officials were also displayed.

After the camp was cleared, nearby buildings, including the undergraduate and graduate libraries, were closed, and police turned away students who showed up to study.

Ono said in a statement that the encampment had become a threat to safety, with overloaded power sources and open flames. Organizers, he added, had refused to comply with requests to make changes following an inspection by a fire marshal.

“The disregard for safety directives was only the latest in a series of troubling events centered on an encampment that has always violated the rules that govern the Diag — especially the rules that ensure the space is available to everyone,” Ono said.

Protesters have demanded that the school’s endowment stop investing in companies with ties to Israel. But the university insists it has no direct investments and less than $15 million placed with funds that might include companies in Israel. That’s less than 0.1 percent of the total endowment.

“There’s nothing to talk about. That issue is settled,” Sarah Hubbard, chair of the Board of Regents, said last week.

A group of 30 protesters showed up at her house before dawn last week and placed stuffed, red-stained sheets on her lawn to resemble body bags. They banged a drum and chanted slogans over a bullhorn.

This photo provided by Sarah Hubbard shows pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters in Okemos, Michigan, demonstrating outside the home of Sarah Hubbard, the chair of the University of Michigan’s governing board, on May 15, 2024 (Sarah Hubbard via AP)

People wearing face coverings also posted demands at the doors of other board members.

“This conduct is where our failure to address antisemitism leads literally — literally — to the front door of my home,” board member Mark Bernstein, a Detroit-area lawyer, said at a board meeting last week. “Who’s next? When and where will this end? As a Jew, I know the answer to these questions because our experience is full of tragedies that we are at grave risk of repeating. Enough is enough.”

Students and others have set up tent encampments on campuses around the country to press colleges to cut financial ties with Israel.

Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate during the University of Michigan’s commencement ceremony at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 4, 2024. (Jacob Hamilton/Ann Arbor News via AP)

Tensions over the war have been high on campuses since the fall, but demonstrations spread quickly following an April 18 police crackdown on an encampment at Columbia University. Arrests at campuses have surpassed the 3,000 mark nationwide.

Meanwhile, the New School in New York said it had reached a deal with anti-Israel protesters to hold a vote on divestment, in exchange for a Gaza solidarity encampment being dismantled.

According to a statement from the school, an investment board will hold a vote on June 14 to end any investments in certain companies in line with calls made by anti-Israel student protesters and a slew of faculty members who launched their own demonstrations following a police crackdown.

“They call for complete divestment from industries implicated in military and police violence in Gaza and the West Bank, and all global militarized conflict such as companies or subsidiaries involved in weapons manufacturing, military supplies and equipment, military communication, and public surveillance technology,” the statement read.

Anti-Israel signs are seen posted on windows as The New School faculty set up a pro-Palestinian encampment on the university’s campus May 8, 2024, in New York City (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP)

The agreement also gave amnesty to those involved in protests.

The statement coincided with one by the school announcing that Joel Towers will take over as school president.

Towers previously headed the Parsons School of Design, whose faculty has been involved in the anti-Israel protests.

“We will continue to strengthen our commitment to academic excellence and freedom, and foster openness and mutual respect,” he said in a statement.

The New School faculty set up an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian encampment on the university’s campus May 08, 2024 in New York City (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP)

Also Monday, Drexel University in Philadelphia threatened to clear an encampment with the campus on lockdown and classes being held virtually as police kept watch over the demonstration.

Many Drexel employees were told to work from home. President John Fry said late Monday that the encampment had disrupted campus life and “cannot be allowed to remain in place.”

“This demonstration already has proved intolerably disruptive to normal University operations and has raised serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protesters subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs and chants,” Fry said, declaring that “this encampment must end.”

Meanwhile, scores of graduating students staged a walkout from Yale University’s commencement exercises on Monday, protesting the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza, Yale’s financial ties to weapons makers and its response to demonstrations on the Ivy League campus.

The walkout began as Yale president Peter Salovey started to announce the traditional college-by-college presentation of candidates for degrees on the grounds of Yale’s Old Campus, filled with thousands of graduates in their caps and gowns.

Police arrest protesters at an anti-Israel demonstration at Yale University in Connecticut, April 22, 2024. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

At least 150 students seated near the front of the audience stood up together, turned their backs to the stage and paraded out of the ceremony through Phelps Gate, retracing their steps during the processional into the yard.

Many of the protesters carried small banners with such slogans as “Books not bombs” and “Divest from war.” Some wore red-colored latex gloves symbolizing bloodied hands.

Other signs read: “Drop the charges” and “Protect free speech,” in reference to 45 people arrested in a police crackdown last month on demonstrations in and around the New Haven, Connecticut, campus.

Wesleyan University in Connecticut said it had reached an agreement with student protesters to review possible divestment, with meetings scheduled for later this month and in the fall. Wesleyan president Michael Roth announced the deal over the weekend and disclosed that 1.7% of Wesleyan’s endowment was invested in aerospace and defense businesses, but that none were directly involved in the manufacture of weapons.

As part of the agreement, Wesleyan protesters cleared their encampment on Monday, according to a school spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth College, an Ivy League university in New Hampshire, narrowly voted to censure president Sian Beilock, according to a college spokesperson, for her decision to call in police to dismantle a pro-Palestinian encampment on May 1. The censure vote does not directly endanger Beilock’s job.

The police action resulted in the arrest of 89 people and some injuries.

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